The "Don't Be Sh*t!" Series - Threshold and Tempo Runs
A common misconception is that they are the same thing which isn’t surprising really as the terms get thrown around randomly to describe what looks like very similar runs!
Threshold running is a very specific pace, individual to every runner and the speed at which your body is just able to prevent a significant amount of lactate from building up in your blood stream. The science may not mean much but simply put, if you go faster than this then you aren’t going to last very long so save it for those shorter races and interval sessions!
It is possible to find out what your threshold pace is through specific testing but you can also get a good estimation with a few simple observations.
In race conditions, it is roughly the speed you can run at for one hour. For most people this will be somewhere between 10K and half marathon pace.
It should feel comfortably hard with you being able to say a few words if necessary but your breathing should still be in control and not as intense as when racing a 5k.
For a training run, a standard threshold session would be a 20 min effort at that pace with a good warm up and warm down. Mentally it can be quite tough running any further than this outside of race conditions so you can also include threshold intervals into your schedule which can make it an easier prospect, check out this month’s session ideas for an example.
Threshold running is a great way of increasing the pace at which this threshold level occurs which means ultimately you will be able to run faster for longer, but sometimes when you are training for events like the marathon, you need to add some speed work into your plan which you can do for a longer duration, this is where tempo runs come in handy.
So, what are tempo runs?
Basically, any continuous speed work that you do which is slower and further than your threshold efforts. Examples of this could be 7 miles at half marathon pace, 12 miles at marathon pace or even 15 miles at just a little slower than marathon pace.
All very valid tempo workouts which will focus more on your speed endurance than a threshold run.
If you want to be best you can when it comes to your running, you really should try to incorporate a variety of both threshold and tempo runs into your plans.
Sessions of the Month
Threshold Intervals (Sometimes referred to as “cruise” intervals)
6 x 5min at threshold pace with 1min jog recoveries.
Mentally a lot easier than one continuous threshold run but by keeping the recoveries short it will provide similar benefits and allow you to clock up a full 30 min of effort.
4 miles at Marathon Pace (3min jog recovery)
3 miles between Marathon and Half Marathon Pace (3min jog recovery)
2 miles at Half Marathon pace
A great tempo session with 9 miles of effort ranging from marathon pace to just below threshold effort at the end.
Tip of the Month
As we approach warmer and sunnier days. It will take a while for your body to acclimatise so while it does, just slow things down a little, stay hydrated and don’t get worked up if you initially lose a little performance.